Lack of motivation is often the missing X-factor to sticking to a fitness routine.
Try these 5 proven tips from a fitness expert.
WHEN IT COMES TO BETTER health, which matters more: exercise or optimal nutrition?
Passionate opinions abound, yet all experts agree that a combination is indispensable when it comes to reaching your full health potential. But while choosing to eat healthier can sometimes feel easier, the effort needed to stay active can be a heavier lift.
Habitual exercise has been clinically proven to have a positive impact on many conditions. Fitness and movement are critical in the fight against metabolic syndrome, elevated blood lipids, and hypertension. Having a regular exercise routine results in a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and more.
In theory, you can get started as soon as you throw on some workout apparel, lace up your gym shoes and, of course, get the green light from your doctor. With such low barriers to entry, why is it that so many of us can’t remember the last time we used our gym membership? Staying active takes some planning, but it’s also about motivation. And a little extra motivation can be the X-factor you need to eliminate excuses.
Here are five tips to keep you motivated and moving:
1. Rock it out.
Ever find yourself tapping along to the beat and realize you’ve been adding movement to your day without realizing it? Music has the power to move us, distracting us from feelings of fatigue, improving mood and even increasing participation if the right type of mix is in the air. A small study recently published in Frontiers in Psychology found that music – high tempo in particular – can help you go longer and faster, with a reduction in perceived effort. Exercisers exposed to high-tempo music (170 to190 beats per minute), experienced higher heart rates and lowest perceived efforts, compared to those working out with no music.
These effects were greater for endurance exercises, such as walking or running, than for high-intensity exercises, such as weightlifting. Not sure how to incorporate music into your sweat sesh? Start by adding a music streaming service to your smartphone (i.e. Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora) and make sure you’ve got a high-quality set of earbuds.
2. Find a different carrot.
Exercise is known to increase feel-good, come-back-for-more endorphins, but sometimes, a reward that’s a bit more tangible is needed to get you out and moving. For some, it’s “earning” an incentive like fresh new kicks or feel good apparel. Others incentivize themselves with a spa date, closing a loop as they reach for better health and wellness.
There’s only one rule when it comes to identifying the perfect prize(s) to keep you coming back to the gym for more: Don’t undo your hard work with indulgent, empty calories. Avoid falling into the habit of rewarding time in the gym with happy hour or a dessert treat, stating “I earned it” at the end of the day. Move away from the food-as-reward type mindset. Find something else to keep you striving for more.
3. Fuel smart.
Better nutrition equals better workouts. If you feel chronically worn down and sore as a result of exercise, you’re likely to skip sessions and you certainly won’t have the energy needed to push your limits. Nutritional recovery and adequate fueling are essential to protecting muscle and energy stores. Even if your daily calorie needs are low, you can 100% fit in the fuel you need.
Time your food intake so that the food consumed in the time span before the workout supports your effort and then consume a mix of protein and carbohydrate in the hours post-workout. Consume 15 to 30 grams of high-quality protein, such as the kind found in dairy products or ready-to-drink shakes containing whey or milk proteins. Enjoy within an hour post-workout to stop muscle breakdown and jump-start recovery.
Then restock energy levels with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Remember to add in hydrating beverages that include a mix of electrolytes. Then you’ll be well on the way to recover, refuel and rehydrate.
4. Don’t go it alone.
The journey towards better health and performance needn’t be lonely. Katie Riddle, a business professional and working mom of two in Seattle, was struggling to fit exercise into her hectic routine. And trying to keep accountable to herself simply wasn’t enough. So she enlisted help.
“Some days, you need external motivation and accountability. A workout buddy or running partner can provide both,” she says. By finding a workout partner with a similar schedule and life demands, Riddle was able to move toward her health and fitness goals. Hence a reason that group runs and exercise classes exist. While your comrades lift you up and hold you accountable, you’re doing the same for them. Everybody wins, finding better health and moving away from the ill effects of sedentary behaviors.
5. You do you
If your workout feels like a chore, you’re going to dread it just like you do the laundry, the dishes or insert-despised-task-here. Exercise can happen in the most unexpected places – from natural hiking trails to the basketball court at the park, to the ball diamond that’s vacant while the kids are at school.
If you can’t stand the thought of sweating it out under florescent lights while attached to an elliptical machine or stair climber – and who would blame you? – then find a workout that works for you. The benefits of exercise follow frequency and intensity, so find a workout – or two – that keeps you coming back for more and inspires you to push further. In the words of elite American distance runner Des Linden, the most important thing is that you keep showing up.